Triparound travel community

Holidays in Cuba

Understanding Cuba

Before the 1959 Revolution, Cuba was a popular tourist destination for United States citizens, mainly due to the large number of casinos catering to gamblers put up by the American mafia Revolutionaries claim the Batista dictatorship was a government that neglected many of its own citizens health and welfare in order to maintain itself in power Many Americans had beach homes during the summer and rich American companies owned large factories and land with the cooperation of Fulgenicio Batista, the ruling military dictator Since the Revolution, Cuba has been subjected to a trade and economic embargo by the United States While travel between the two neighbors is restricted, it is still possible, though illegal for most US citizens Since 2009, US citizens with relatives living in Cuba are allowed to visit Cuba for a period of time, but only once every year

After 1959, Cuban tourism was mostly for Cubans only, and the facilities were not renewed until the 1990s, when Cuba lost financial backing from the defunct Soviet Union and opened its doors to foreign tourism Now many European, Canadian, and even American visitors come to the island In the typical tourist regions like Varadero and Holguin a lot of modern 3-star to 5-star hotels are available, while in less popular tourist regions visitors are still able to rent rooms in many Cuban homes called casas particulares

Due to several long-standing factors eg bureaucratic ineffectiveness, the US embargo, lack of resources, and the loss of Soviet subsidies much of the country's infrastructure is in need of repair In major tourist destinations there will generally be few problems with either power or water, although such outages may occur Electricity outages have been common in Cuba, except in tourist facilities that have a generator 2006 was designated the Year of the Energy Revolution in Cuba, and many small generators have been installed in an attempt to avoid blackouts Since Venezuela began providing Cuba with cheap oil and the refinery in Cienfuegos relaunched, the energy situation has improved Many tourist accommodations offer 220V as well as 110V power sources

Talking in Cuba

The official language of Cuba is Spanish, quite similar to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rican Spanish, although the version here is quite different from that spoken in Spain although quite similar to the one in Canary Islands because many Cubans are descendants of Canarians, Mexico and South America Cubans tend to swallow the last syllable in a word and generally swallow the 's' sound

Basic to fair English is spoken in some tourist locations and language should not be a deterrent to visiting the country for non-Spanish speaking tourists capable of speaking English, though basic Spanish would prove useful, especially in more informal settings Cubans enjoy talking to tourists, especially if you are staying with them in the "Casas particulares" and some knowledge of Spanish will help you understand regular Cubans' experiences

Instead of the Spanish "Que tal?" for "How are you?", Cubans will say "Que vola?" similar to "What's up?", generally quite informal or "Como andas?" literally means, "How are you walking?" Young Cubans amongst themselves will use the word "asere" which means "buddy" but is generally used between men and is not recommended for use by women A particularly beautiful woman will be called a "jeva"

Buying stuff in Cuba


For information specific to US citizens see Americans in Cuba

There are two currencies circulating in Cuba, Cuban Pesos CUP and Cuban Convertible Pesos CUC Prior to November 2004 US dollars were in wide circulation on par with the CUC, but the government discontinued that and they are no longer used

CUC is the currency most tourists will use in Cuba It is how you will pay for hotels, official taxis, entry into museums, meals at restaurants, cigars, rum, etc Conversion into CUC can be done at exchange houses casa de cambio, or cadeca These are located in many hotels and in other places throughout the cities CUC are valued at 28 times the value of CUP Tourists are permitted to import or export a maxiumum of CUP 100 or CUC 200 at any one time

CUP are also known as local Pesos and Moneda Nacional National money As of Oct 2008, 1 CUC = 24 CUP There is a limited range of goods that can be bought for local pesos, and these are transactions carried out in agricultural markets or from street vendors Fruits, vegetables, fresh juices and snacks from street vendors are among the things CUP can buy CUP's also buys the local cigars 'tabachos' or 'Nacionales' in local shops These taste fair, and you get one for 1 CUP, far cheaper than what you have to pay for the exportation brands Try them, they are OK

Because the products that can be purchased with CUP are limited, it is not a good idea to change more than CUC 5-10 into CUP at a time, as the CUP will last for a good while

Exchanging currency

The USD is no longer a proxy currency in Cuba, and now incurs the same 10% exchange penalty that applies to other foreign currencies While it was once the best currency to spend in the country, this is no longer the case note that guidebooks older than a year or two are now seriously outdated when it comes to money

For the overwhelming majority of travelers, it is completely unnecessary to exchange your money losing twice Check to see if your home currency is accepted at the Banco Metropolitano 9 Over 75% of Cuba's visitors hold Canadian Dollars, Sterling or Euros which are perfectly acceptable Mexican Pesos, Swiss Francs, Japanese Yen, Australian Dollars and at least four other currencies are also reportedly converted at major banks in Cuba If you must change a large sum of home currency for another, make sure to change directly into CUCs, and research exchange rates in advance For currencies that aren't accepted in Cuba, converting to Euros in your home country will probably be the easiest & cheapest option

Banco Central de Cuba 10 publishes official exchange rates on its website If you must buy Canadian Dollars or Euros first, compare retail rates from different forex vendors: the interbank rates cited by online calculators will underestimate your true exchange costs by 5-10%

Most travel transactions and expenses are in 'pesos convertibles' or 'chavitos' CUC$ The best rates for CUC$ are at the banks or CADECA kiosks, not resorts There's little difference between the rates offered at Cuban airport kiosks or banks Consider changing only what you need, because re-conversion will add another exchange cost Also, be advised that travelers changing money on the street have been defrauded, with fake or local currency Caveat emptor!

Changing a very small sum USD$ 5 into 'moneda nacional' CUP is useful only for theaters, cinemas, local buses, etc Most tourists will not ever use the 'moneda nacional' on holiday Travelers or Backpackers with a low budget can save a lot of money in food expenses if they are willing to eat Cheese Pizza and fried eggs

Traveler's Checks

Traveler's checks drawn on American banks are not technically valid in Cuba, though many have had success cashing US traveler's checks at major tourist hotels American Express checks are difficult to cash due to the likelihood that they were purchased with US dollars For example, Swiss traveler's checks will be accepted, as long as they are in Swiss francs, even if the checks are made "in licence" of an American bank, as long as the real producer of them is non-American Visa Traveller's cheques are accepted, though the same caveats about being drawn on an American bank apply It's better to bring cash to Cuba; resorts accept Euros, Canadian dollars, British pounds, Swiss francs and Hong Kong Dollar currencies without any fees If backpacking or leaving the resort areas, exchange your currency to CUCs, as foreign currency is not accepted by many locals For US dollars, they will charge a penalty of 10%, so it's better to change to Euros, Canadian dollars or Swiss francs before travelling there

ATMs and Credit cards

ATMs are rare in Cuba, with only a handful found in Havana Most are linked with either the Mastercard/Cirrus or Visa/Plus interbank systems US-issued cards will not be accepted Unlike some national systems, only primary accounts typically checking are recognized Even if you find an ATM and meet the above criteria it still may not have sufficient cash for a large withdrawal - if refused, try again and ask for a smaller amount or ask the bank clerks for a cash advance, they can process cash advances

Visa & Mastercard credit cards of non-US origin can usually be used, including for cash advances, but places that accept Visa as payment are extremely limited Credit cards are charged in US dollars plus 1124% the 8% exchange difference plus a 3% fee The best places to attempt to use a credit/Debit card for a cash withdrawal are at the state run Cadecas / Cambios - rather than banks used by Cubans, using the 'red' company name ATMs Debit cards are generally not accepted, although this does vary from card to card

As a rule of thumb: if your debit card has a PLUS or CIRRUS logo it may work If you were able to make a purchase via internet it may work If it is a USA bank card it won't work

Many banks will tell you that your debit card will be accepted in Cuba when in fact it will not Do not rely on ATMs for cash as you may be used to in other countries Top Tip: Have enough currency or travellers cheques when you enter the country to get by, if necessary There is a high chance you will not be able to withdraw any cash other than with a credit card,for which you will pay the 125% conversion to "US dollar rate" and then conversion of those US dollars to your local currency at the rate charged by your card which is usually about 2% more than the posted bank rate To withdraw cash you will need to present your passport to an employee00:14, 4 August 2010 EDT00:14, 4 August 2010 EDT~~, and will be asked where you are staying The Cadecas are open longer hours than the banks, but the queues are usually much shorter in the banks

Other than for use at ATMs and banks, there are generally no facilities for making payments with plastic in hotels, shops and restaurants, necessitating the use of cash


Banks often close at 3PM, and earlier on the last day of the month Cadecas exchange bureaus may be open longer, especially in hotels When going to a bank allow enough time as service is usually slow and many people may already be waiting Foreigners may get preferred treatment in exchange for a small tip

You must bring your passport in case you want to exchange traveler's checks or make a credit card advance, although cash can be changed without a passport Exchange rates do vary from place to place, and some hotels do give significantly worse exchange rates than the banks


As in any developing country, most of the merchandise available is designed for tourists to take back home The biggest Cuban exports for tourists are rum, cigars, and coffee, all of which are available at government-owned stores including the duty free store at the airport or on the streets For genuine merchandise, you should pay the official price at the legal stores

Another thing Cubans do well is music such as salsa, son, and Afro-Cubano You can purchase CDs or tapes anywhere, but paying the average cost of 20 CUC assures you of quality and supports the artists

If you are planning to take big quantities several boxes or more of cigars with you, be sure you have purchased them officially from an approved shop that gives you proper purchase documentation Foreign nationals are allowed to export up to 50 cigars generally 25 to a box without special permits or receipts, but the export of more requires official receipts If you buy cigars cheap on streets and you don't have official purchase invoice then your cigars may/will be confiscated Also, be advised that any purchase of Cuban cigars outside government-approved stores even in resorts has the potential to be fake, and that the "cigar factory worker who steals from the factory" does not exist in any appreciable quantities If you find a "deal" from a street vendor, it's incredibly likely you are getting fakes, some of which may not even be made of tobacco Always ensure, no matter where you buy, that the Cuban government origin warranty stamp is properly affixed to the cigar box Americans are no longer allowed to bring Cuban cigars back into the US, regardless of their value, if they have an OFAC license, or even if they were given as a gift It is also illegal for Americans to smoke or buy Cuban cigars anywhere in the world

Officially you'll need permission to export paintings that are larger than 70cm/side When you buy artwork from approved shop then they'll give you also the required document, that consists of one paper and one stamp that will be glued on back of your painting Serial numbers on the stamp and paper must match Cost of the document is about CUC 2-3 In reality, it is possible that no one will be interested in your paintings

Medical Tourism

Cuba has long been a popular Medical Tourism destination for patients worldwide that seek high quality medical care at low costs According to the Association of Caribbean States, nearly 20,000 international patients visited Cuba in 2006 for medical care Cuba is especially attractive to many Latin American and North American patients given its easy proximity and relaxing environment

A wide range of medical treatments are provided including joint replacement, cancer treatment, eye surgery, cosmetic surgery and addictions rehabilitation Costs are about 60 to 80 percent less than US costs For example, Choice Medical Services 11 a health tourism provider, provides a hip replacement at leading Cuban hospitals for US$5845

Food and eating in Cuba

Being that all restaurants are owned by the government and run by employees, the food in Cuba is notoriously bland If you are expecting the fiery pepperpot spiciness found on some of the other Caribbean islands, consider that the national dish in Cuba is rice and beans moros y cristianos A popular saying goes that the best Cuban food can be found in the United States Within Cuba, the best food will generally be found in your casa particular or in paladares locally owned restaurants in private homes

Black beans are a main staple in Cuban households Cubans eat mainly pork and chicken for meat Beef and lobster are controlled by the state, and therefore illegal to sell outside of state owned hotels and restaurants, however special lobster lunch/supper offers are plentiful for tourists You may see turtle on menus in Paladares, but be aware that they are endangered and eating them is illegal

Paladares are plentiful, even in the smaller towns Seating is often limited, so you may need to arrive when they open, usually around 5 or 6PM If you are staying in a casa particular ask your host for recommendations, as the quality of the food can vary substantially between paladares Only eat in ones that have a printed menu with prices, otherwise you are very likely to pay two to three times as much as you should That said, several have taken to printing two different menus, one with local prices and one with foreigner prices Eating in paladares is perfectly legal, but be aware that if you are taken there by a Cuban, you may be charged extra in order to cover commission of the person who brought you A supper will cost around 7 to 10 CUC per person

Eating in state owned hotels and restaurants is significantly more expensive and compares with prices in many first world countries An average supper with soup, dessert and a glass or two of wine could easily set you back 20 to 30 CUC per person Note that in these establishments, the vast majority of the employees' income would come from tips their monthly salary often being less than the cost of one meal, making it a friendly and welcome gesture to tip liberally for good service

It is difficult to find any restaurants serving breakfast in Cuba outside of resorts; most casas particulares will serve their guests a large breakfast for around 4 CUC per person if requested

A tasty serving of rice, vegetables, plantains, and pork or beef called a cajita "little box" in English is an attractive and affordable option, and are generally sold for around US$1 out of people's homes

You can also find small street vendors selling a variety of foods, typically sandwiches and pizzas for between 2 and 12 CUP The quality varies from vendor to vendor so when you find a good one take note Many of these stores are run from people's living rooms, and buying from them is a good way to help provide some extra income to a Cuban family While these meals are satisfying and cheap, be warned that long lines are common and the vendors are rarely in any rush to see everyone fed quickly

Drinking in Cuba

Cuban national cocktails include the Cuba Libre rum and cola and the Mojito rum, lime, sugar, mint leaves, club soda and ice

If you request a rum in a small country restaurant do not be surprised if it is only available by the bottle Havana Club is the national brand and the most popular Expect to pay $4 for three year old white rum or $8 for seven year old dark rum

Cristal is a light beer and is available in "dollar" stores where Cubans with CUCs and visitors may shop Cubans prefer the Bucanero Fuerte, which at 55% alcohol is a strong hence the "fuerte" darker beer Both Cristal and Bucanero are brewed by a joint venture with Labatts of Canada, whose beer is the only Cuban beer sold in CUC A stronger version, Bucanero Max is also available - primarily available in Havana

There are also smaller brews, not available everywhere, such as Hatuey and Corona del Mar These are sold in CUP

Accommodation in Cuba

If you want to experience something of the real life of Cubans, the best places to stay are casas particulares private houses licensed to offer lodging services to foreigners They are cheaper than hotels average CUC 20/room and the food breakfast CUC 3-4, dinner CUC 7-10 is almost always better than you would get in a hotel Casas particulares are plentiful even in small towns; they are somewhat more expensive in Havana than elsewhere Note that any service offered by a casa particular other than accommodation, such as driving you to the bus station, will be added to your bill, regardless of whether this is stated up front Items such as bottled water supplied with your meal will also have a charge Always make sure that you talk to the owner about what things will cost when you arrive to avoid unpleasant surprises later These houses are under a lot of restrictions by the government, so make sure that you are staying at a legal "casa" A legal house will have a sticker on the front door often a blue sign on a white background, you will notice these as you walk past houses Upon arrival, the houseowner will need to take down your passport details and how long you will be staying for Some Cubans do offer illegal accommodation and although they are cheaper, the quality of the food and service is generally lower If found, the Cubans will risk a large fine and it is best to avoid illegal casas completely If travelling around the island, it is recommended to ask the casa owners if they have friends or family in the city you are going to There is a network of casas and the family will gladly organise for you to be met by their friends off the bus at your next destination

If travelling by bus, you will be accosted by jineteros hustlers trying to lead you to a casa, where they will get a commission and you will be charged the extra For the best rates, arrange your accommodation in advance, either by asking your host to recommend someone or by using a casa particular association Some will let you book accommodation over the internet before your trip, and will go out of their way to arrange accommodation for you while you are there

Most small cities and larger towns have at least one state-run hotel, which is often in a restored colonial building The prices range from around CUC 25 to CUC 100, depending on what you are getting Resorts and high-end Havana hotels can be significantly more expensive

Cubans hosting foreigners for free is technically illegal and risk a large fine if caught Some will bend the rules, but be cautious if you choose to take up the offer eg don't walk out the front door if you see a police car nearby, especially if you look obviously foreign

Working in Cuba

The average official salary for Cubans is about US$15 per month Non-Cubans can only obtain a business/work visa or a work permit through a Cuban business or a foreign business registered in Cuba Business visas are generally for up to three months Work permits are renewable annually

Cities in Cuba

abreus  agramonte  aguada de pasajeros  alacranes  alquizar  amancio  artemisa  baguanos  bahia honda  banes  baracoa  baragua  batabano  bauta  bayamo  bejucal  bolondron  cabaiguan  cabanas  caibarien  calabazar de sagua  calimete  camaguey  camajuani  campechuela  candelaria  cardenas  chambas  ciego de avila  cienfuegos  cifuentes  colombia  colon  condado  consolacion del sur  contramaestre  corralillo  cruces  cueto  cumanayagua  el cobre  encrucijada  esmeralda  esperanza  florida  fomento  gibara  guaimaro  guanajay  guane  guantanamo  guines  guira de melena  guisa  holguin  jaguey grande  jaruco  jatibonico  jiguani  jobabo  jovellanos  las tunas  los arabos  los palacios  madruga  manati  manguito  manicaragua  mantua  manzanillo  mariel  marti  matanzas  mayari  media luna  minas  moa  moron  niquero  nueva gerona  nuevitas  palma soriano  palmira  pedro betancourt  perico  pinar del rio  placetas  primero de enero  puerto padre  quemado de guines  rancho veloz  ranchuelo  remedios  rio cauto  rodas  sagua de tanamo  sagua la grande  san antonio de los banos  san cristobal  sancti spiritus  san diego de los banos  san jose de las lajas  san luis  san luis  san nicolas  santa clara  santa cruz del norte  santa cruz del sur  santa fe  santiago de cuba  santiago de las vegas  santo domingo  sibanicu  trinidad  union de reyes  varadero  venezuela  vertientes  yaguajay  yara  zaza del medio  zulueta  

What do you think about Cuba?

How expensive is Cuba?
Meal in inexpensive restaurant6.37 USD
3-course meal in restaurant (for 2)14.85 USD
McDonalds meal6.63 USD
Local beer (0.5 draft)0.96 USD
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 1.44 USD
Cappuccino1.57 USD
Pepsi/Coke (0.33 bottle)1.15 USD
Water (0.33 bottle)0.5 USD
Milk (1l)1.3 USD
Fresh bread (500g)0.44 USD
White Rice (1kg)0.77 USD
Eggs (12) 0.89 USD
Local Cheese (1kg) 3.63 USD
Chicken Breast (1kg) 3.74 USD
Apples (1kg) 6.32 USD
Oranges (1kg) 0.72 USD
Tomato (1kg) 0.81 USD
Potato (1kg) 1.28 USD
Lettuce (1 head) 0.51 USD
Water (1.5l)0.91 USD
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 4.44 USD
Domestic Beer (0.5 bottle)0.99 USD
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 1.66 USD
Cigarettes1.11 USD
One way local bus ticket0.04 USD
Monthly pass for bus118.3 USD
Taxi start1.82 USD
Taxi 1km0.99 USD
Taxi 1hour waiting9.35 USD
Gasoline (1 liter) 1.61 USD
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend) 3.31 USD
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre 512.52 USD
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre 338.25 USD
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre 775 USD
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre 388.49 USD, your travel companion

We all like to travel. I created for you and me and others like us, people who are always looking for somewhere to travel. Be it a country you've never been to before, or a country you've visited for seven times already. Create your travel profile and share your travel updates with friends, find the perfect cheap flight tickets and book the cheapest hotels around the world. In case of any problems, just drop me a line!

Where to start?

The best place to start, obviously, would be to create register (for free) and create your own traveller profile and start sharing your travel updates with friends. And of course, any time you start thinking of going travelling, use to search for flights, cheap hotels and rooms as well as things to do while travelling.


Please note that we really do recommend the sites we share with you, be it for hotels, flights or anything else. We use them ourselves as well. In case of some links our affiliates codes have been embedded, just to help us keep working on this site.